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Defense technology to grow despite Pentagon budget cuts

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As the Defense Department slashes its budget by at least $487 billion in 10 years, technology investment is one of the few areas that will continue to grow, according to a new military strategy that President Obama and Pentagon officials released Thursday.

The increased spending will focus on cyberspace, intelligence systems, space and science research, according to the review.

President Obama told a Pentagon press briefing that Defense has to develop "smart, strategic priorities." Specifically, he called for enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

In his written introduction to the review, Obama said the new strategy will "ensure that our military is agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies." He added this includes investments to ensure that the United States can prevail in all domains of military operations, including cyberspace.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said broad cuts in the new Defense budget, due for release in late January, do not apply to investments in technology, including unmanned systems, space capabilities and "particularly cyberspace capabilities."

Defense budgeted $3.2 billion for cybersecurity in 2012. The Pentagon, Panetta said, must continue to invest "in new capabilities to maintain a decisive edge."

He declined to provide specific funding figures for any military programs, deferring that action until release of the 2013 Defense budget. But, Panetta said, the strategy will drive the structure of the budget.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said the new strategy envisions budget increases in "all aspects of cyber," along with science and technology research. Defense cannot abandon that research, Carter said, as it would be akin to "eating our seed corn."

Highlighting the importance of networks and space systems in the future, the strategy document said: "Modern armed forces cannot conduct high-temp, effective operations without reliable information and communication networks and assured access to cyberspace and space. Today space systems and their supporting infrastructure face a range of threats that may degrade, disrupt or destroy assets. Accordingly, DoD will continue to work with domestic and international allies and partners and invest in advanced capabilities to defend its networks, operational capability and resiliency in cyberspace and space."

Trey Hodgkins, vice president of national security and procurement policy at TechAmerica, an industry trade group, said the new military strategy reflects an increasing awareness within Defense that technology, including information technology, sits at the core of multiple missions, and the Pentagon has to continue to beef up investments in this area.

Obama pointed out that the new military strategy shifts the Pentagon focus from Europe and the Mideast to the Asia-Pacifc region, including a beefed-up U.S. force presence in Australia that he announced in November 2011.

"As we end today's wars, we will focus on a broader range of challenges and opportunities, including the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific [region]," Obama wrote in his introduction to the review. This shift includes dealing with the growth of the military power of China, which should be balanced by greater U.S. military presence in the region, the document said.

Hodgkins said this increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region will boost the importance of the U.S. Pacific Command headquartered in Honolulu and will require greater Defense network capacity in the region.

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